House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was treaty.


Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

November 22nd, 1999 / 11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should implement a “Regulatory Budget”, parallel to the traditional spending budget, which would detail estimates of the total cost of each individual regulation including the government enforcement costs as well as the cost of compliance to individual citizens and businesses; and include a risk/benefit analysis of each regulation, to enable cost/benefit analysis of regulation by parliamentarians.

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to debate my private member's Motion No. 207 concerning the introduction of a regulatory budget which would achieve a great deal in a number of realms.

First, there has been a secular decline in the role of the member of parliament over the past 30 years and a reduction in the meaningful role that private members play in conducting and legislating those things that are really important to Canadians. This regulatory budget would go a long way toward restoring some of the traditional authority which members of parliament had back in the days when the estimates were debated on the floor of the House of Commons and before the days when there was such tremendous control and concentration of power, in particular in the PMO and to a certain extent within the cabinet. This would help reverse a certain amount of that. It would also redistribute power that is currently with the bureaucracy and put more of that power in the hands of elected representatives. That would achieve a great good on behalf of Canadians, Canadian parliamentary systems and democracy.

There are two ways the government can change the way Canadians do things. For instance, if a bureaucrat determines that it is in the public interest to have a lawn sprinkler on every lawn in Canada, there are two ways the bureaucrat can achieve that. One way is to whisper in the ear of a cabinet minister that this is a good thing and that the government should buy those lawn sprinklers and distribute them to Canadians, which would entail a tax. Of course, the government would increase taxes, buy the lawn sprinklers and distribute them to Canadians to put on their lawns.

The second way, which is far less transparent and more concealed, would be for the government to introduce a regulation which would force all Canadians to buy lawn sprinklers with their own money and put them on their lawn.

What is the difference? The only difference is that of transparency and accountability, because effectively the same result is achieved with either alternative. Canadians are forced to sacrifice some of their scarce resources in the interest of a public good which is somehow determined by the bureaucracy. Somehow it is determined by big government and by this nanny government state that something is in the interests of Canadians and the government has made a decision that this will be done.

When a bureaucrat believes it is in the public interest that a certain end be achieved, there needs to be transparency and accountability in parliament prior to that change being effected.

Effectively what would occur with a regulatory budget would be that each new regulation introduced by a bureaucrat, before it was actually implemented, would have to pass once a year through a regulatory budget in the Chamber. We would be debating the efficacy or importance of each regulation in the House of Commons in the same way that we debate provisions within the budget.

A regulation is virtually the same as a tax. While we debate tax issues in the House all the time, we rarely debate the regulatory burden that is playing such a significant role in Canada and to a considerable extent is reducing the efficiency and competitiveness of Canadian business and individuals.

I will give some examples. Between 1973 and 1996 federal government regulations grew significantly. In fact we have seen in recent years, during the 1990s, 650 to 1,000 new regulations introduced every year, requiring 4,000 to 5,000 pages of detailed explanation. Furthermore, in the past 20 years there have been over 100,000 new federal and provincial regulations passed. The average, combining federal and provincial, has been about 4,000 new regulations per year in the past 20 years.

As the number of regulations continues to expand, so do the costs of designing, implementing and administering these regulations. The expenditures on federal regulations over the past 20 years have grown in real dollar terms from $2 billion to $2.5 billion, an increase of 26%.

What do these regulations mean to consumers? It is very important to recognize that there are three costs with every regulation. The first two costs, which are borne by the government, are the implementation costs and the enforcement costs. The third cost, the largest cost, which is borne by consumers, is the cost of compliance. These regulations for consumers have cost the average Canadian family about $11,000 per year, federal and provincial regulations combined. That has been an increase in real terms from about $10,000 20 years ago. Total compliance costs to the private sector have increased from $58 billion in 1974 to about $84 billion in 1995-96. That increase has a significant impact, in particular on small business.

Studies suggest that escalating regulatory costs are responsible in part for our lagging productivity growth in Canada relative to the U.S. and other OECD countries. The 1994 small business working committee set up by the federal government shared these thoughts: “Too many regulations are developed and administered with little consideration given to the impact on the competitiveness of small business. Government must regulate less, simplify paperwork, limit information requirements and get out of the way so that small businesses can focus on creating wealth and jobs”.

Unfortunately, Ottawa has abandoned its attempt to make compliance requirements more efficient for business. In their first term the Liberals introduced legislation aimed at allowing companies to propose more cost effective ways of complying with regulatory requirements. However, this legislation was redrafted and ultimately scrapped. It is now necessary to revisit some of these initiatives. We must find ways to encourage more innovative market driven responses to the issue of compliance.

The U.S. is having a similar experience relative to regulations. The cost of complying with American federal regulations has risen to 47% of the federal budget, up from 40% in 1988. There has been an increase in the regulatory burden, both in the U.S. and Canada, with our other trading partners. It is important that we also look at the examples of Japan and European countries in the EU which are also moving to reform regulatory burden issues within their countries. It is important to view what is being done in other countries with respect to tax issues, social investment issues and regulatory issues.

We are in a very competitive global environment and we cannot afford to sit still in Canada while other countries adopt more innovative approaches to some of these very important competitiveness issues.

The notion of costing regulations, taking those three costs that I mentioned earlier, the two government borne costs and the private sector compliance cost, and combining them with the actual benefit of those regulations would provide parliamentarians with an ability to actually debate in the Chamber the importance or the efficacy of individual regulations.

The benefit of a regulation could be provided through a risk/benefit analysis, the methodology for which is very sophisticated and exists within insurance companies and underwriting agencies. We could use that type of methodology to determine the actual benefits of a regulation in order to compare the benefits to the costs of implementing that regulation.

It is very important to realize that there would be cases with a regulatory budget where the costs of implementation and enforcement would exceed the numeric value number of the benefit, but we would still pass that regulation.

I will give an example, which is not a federal regulation. Some provinces and municipalities have bicycle helmet laws. How could we put a price on the prevention of a head injury to a child? It would be very difficult to quantify that kind of benefit. There would be a political will and the recognition of a social good to passing that regulation, even though the numbers may not add up.

I have been asked questions relative to environmental issues. Some would say that it is difficult to quantify the benefits of environmental policy. I would argue to the contrary, that any economic policy which ignores environmental impact is bad economic policy. We should be taking into account environmental costs with every piece of regulation. If we fail to do so, the economics simply will not work because we will fail to internalize the externalities and to take into account the real cost to individuals, both consumers and non-consumers.

All these things can be taken into account. The bottom line is that elected members of the House would have the power to pass or to vote against individual regulations as part of this budget. This would lead to greater diligence in the bureaucracy in introducing regulations, greater scrutiny both by the bureaucracy and within the elected Chamber of these regulations, and ultimately a more effective and efficient regulatory burden which would provide greater benefit to Canadians and wreak less havoc with Canadian enterprises.

Last week I received a letter from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I will read some excerpts from it:

Numerous surveys of our members carried out over the years have consistently identified government red tape as a major problem for small and medium size businesses.

The recent survey of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 60% of over 10,000 respondents identified government regulations and paper burden as serious issues for their businesses. Government regulations and paper burden were ranked as the second most important issues behind the total tax burden and just ahead of employment insurance and government debt reduction.

When asked to identify what government priorities should improve their productivity, 44% of respondents identified easing burdensome government regulations. The survey also found that one out of four respondents said that government fees and penalties needed to be made more equitable. Both responses were ranked in the top five actions the government should take to improve small business productivity. They were directly behind payroll, income taxes and paying down the federal debt.

Paper burden and regulations that are present at the federal, provincial and municipal levels saps productivity and wastes valuable time and money, not only for small and medium size businesses but also for the taxpayer and for government. A past survey carried out by the CFIB found that 40% of Ontario small business owners spend more than six hours per week simply filling out forms.

The cost of red tape to the Canadian economy is staggering, costing tens of billions of dollars annually. Some provinces have already taken steps to reduce red tape with the full support and active involvement of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. In 1995 the Ontario government set up the red tape commission which has so far removed or amended more than 1,300 regulations. More recently the Ontario government announced its intention to set up a permanent red tape watchdog that will subject all new regulations to a strict business impact test.

This summer the New Brunswick government announced that it was setting up a red tape review committee to eliminate regulations that are a barrier to economic growth and job creation.

Garth White, senior vice-president of national affairs for the CFIB, said in his correspondence to me that the CFIB applauded our initiative and urged the federal government to take swift action to cut unnecessary regulations and red tape which hamper productivity and competitiveness and kills badly needed jobs.

We have the support of the small business community in this regard. If Canadians were aware of this initiative we would have the support of the majority of Canadians who understand quite clearly that a regulation is nothing more than a tax. As such we should be debating in the Chamber the importance and effectiveness of individual regulations. I look forward to the comments of my hon. colleagues on this important issue.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London Ontario


Gar Knutson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to the motion introduced by the hon. member concerning the important matter of regulations.

The motion actually touches on two key issues. The first issue concerns the role of parliamentarians in assessing regulations and making sound judgements as to their value and benefit. The second issue is equally significant. It involves the appropriateness and effectiveness of the existing regulatory governance regime within the Government of Canada.

In his motion the hon. member calls for the establishment of a regulatory budget. In essence this would involve the tabling of detailed cost estimates identifying the total cost of each proposed regulation. Such costs would encompass the government's enforcement costs in addition to those incurred by individual citizens and businesses.

The motion further calls for the submission of a cost benefit analysis pertaining to each regulation. The intent of this information would be to enable parliamentarians to assess the benefits in light of a realistic understanding of the costs. However, it is unclear what purpose the proposals would serve or at what stage in the regulatory process such a budget would be considered.

In a system of government based on the rule of law, the laws and regulations created pursuant to its authority to give structure to society have a far reaching and profound impact on the daily lives of citizens. A well governed society must have both laws and regulations in order to provide the essential framework within which individuals, companies, organizations and governments can function both fairly and efficiently.

Parliament's legislative power is exercised through passing statutes which explicitly set out the authority to make decisions by regulation delegated to the government. Regulations can be made only to the extent authorized by parliament in the enabling legislation. They represent the specifics, the details through which the spirit of the law can be applied in practice.

In approving laws parliament also makes provisions in them for making regulations where they are needed to carry out the purposes of the laws and how such regulation making power should be delegated. However, once a law is passed with delegated authority it is the responsibility of the government of the day to make every effort to ensure that supporting regulations are not unduly burdensome or costly, that Canadians as individuals and as a society are better not worse off as a result, and that Canadians have a say in these issues.

It must be recognized that not every individual, every group or other interest in society can be expected to agree as to the definition of what better or worse off may mean. In seeking to protect Canadians health, safety or the environment, regulations may be developed that some groups or businesses may find burdensome. Such are the trade-offs with which governments must deal.

In the case of the motion before the House today the first issue to which I referred a few minutes ago was that of parliamentary review and oversight. In the motion the hon. member appears to be seeking the establishment of a mechanism to ensure that regulations do not deviate in practice from the intent of the laws they were created to support.

The hon. member's motion seeks to create a new mechanism where an effective alternative already exists. Regulations flow from the laws passed by parliament and cannot be inconsistent with those laws. Regulations are by definition limited by parliamentary role that grants or denies approval for the legal foundation upon which they rest.

What then of the issue of the cost benefit analysis called for in the motion? Without question regulations impose costs. To the greatest degree possible it is important that such costs be known and minimized at the time regulations are first enacted. However we must also keep in mind the benefits of a specific regulation before it is actually applied.

For example, instruments such as those made under the Canada Business Corporations Act help companies to create wealth and jobs and to take risks by establishing the concept of limited liability. We have bankruptcy regulations which are essential in enabling companies, both large and small, to obtain credit on reasonable terms and exercise the right to repossess goods. Such instruments make it possible for a measure of order and control to be applied to the bankruptcy process as well as to the entire process of credit granting and business financing.

Let me use other examples. Regulating that there must be seatbelts or adequate anchors for baby seats in motor vehicles, regulating some emergency or safety features in our airports, or regulating to protect the health of Canadians through careful drug approval imposes costs which can generally be well documented and quantified.

Who would deny that these regulations also bring significant benefits to our society and our citizens? The fact is that it is often much easier to identify anticipated costs associated with regulations than the benefits they may eventually provide. This suggests that the remedy being proposed by the hon. member to allow for a cost benefit assessment would be very difficult to achieve or have experts agree on. The point is that the benefits are undeniable.

The regulatory budget idea proposed by the hon. member represents a very rigid approach which would do more harm than good. It could result in a cap being placed on a number of new regulations passed, thus depriving Canadians of significant additional benefits in such areas as health, safety and environmental protection.

This brings me to the second key issue relating to the hon. member's motion. I am referring to the capacity of existing federal regulatory law and procedures to serve the best interest of Canadians. All regulations approved by the federal government must meet the federal regulatory policy requirement calling for consultations involving all relevant stakeholders. An example of this consultation process would be active participation by industry in the 1996 regulatory review. This review resulted in almost 1,000 modifications to or revocations of regulatory requirements.

Interestingly enough this comprehensive review of our stock of regulations, undertaken with the active participation of industry, still left some 2,000 regulations in the books, another evidence of industry agreeing that regulations do bring benefits to industry as well.

The regulatory approval process is rigorous. In developing regulations the government considers what burdens may be created by a proposed regulatory change as well as the corresponding social and other potential benefits. The government also examines the results of consultations by officials, noting who was consulted, what views were expressed and what reasons have been presented as to why dissenting views could not be accommodated by the sponsoring department.

The government analyses alternative regulatory solutions to ensure that the most effective and efficient is chosen, and it assesses compliance and enforcement issues. All this information is presented to the public for comment in the regulatory impact analysis statement.

The regulatory policy also helps ensure that proposed regulations or changes do not result in adverse impact on the economy's capacity to generate wealth and employment. Final decisions on regulations are made by a committee of cabinet ministers. Cabinet as a whole is responsible to parliament and therefore to the public for the application of regulations.

The Government of Canada is committed to a regulatory government that demonstrates balance, fairness, transparency and accountability. While the government does not accept the proposition that the action proposed by the hon. member is necessary, it does recognize the need to remain vigilant in ensuring that our regulatory regime is the best we can make it.

We will continue to work toward this goal. We will continue to devote our energies to ensuring that the best possible regulatory decisions are being made in serving the interest of the people of Canada and in conformity with the legislative authority conferred by parliament.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Jim Pankiw Reform Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the Motion No. 207 brought forward by the Tory member of parliament for Kings—Hants.

Like so many other ideas of the fifth place party, when we strip away the veneer we are left with another Red Tory irresponsible socialist nightmare. About the only positive thing I can say about the motion is that it is not votable, so we will not be wasting three hours of parliament's time debating it.

However, if it had been deemed votable, I would have voted against it and encouraged fellow MPs to do the same. I say this not so much for what the motion attempts to accomplish but for what it does not do.

The motion tries to introduce increased accountability into the regulatory process. However, it deals with accountability in terms of costs and forgets about the regulatory process itself.

In that sense the hon. member has put the cart before the horse. Reform's approach, as outlined in our blue book policy, states that the Reform Party supports restrictions on the number and types of orders in council permitted by a government during its term in office. It goes on to state that until we form government Reform Party MPs will strive to make parliamentary committees effective in reviewing any regulation before implementation.

As the official opposition, my Reform Party colleagues and I believe that by changing the regulatory process to make it more accountable we get cost effectiveness.

I will elaborate later on how this is achieved. However, I first want to provide context and background on how the regulatory process works or, more accurately, does not work.

Regulations, or as they are also described statutory instruments or delegated legislation, are passed through order in council or governor in council. As all members know, this is done under the auspices of the minister's authority.

Let us not kid ourselves. They are drafted, vetted and the product of bureaucratic thinkers. There is nothing wrong with this per se. Indeed, with British parliamentary democracies having evolved the way they have, legislative authority must be delegated.

However, as a consequence and with little or no accountability, unelected people are making what are effectively laws. The authority to do this is legitimately contained in every bill that comes before parliament. But that is not where my concern is.

Given that any government bill tabled contains the words “the governor in council may make regulations”, the bulk of a bill's legislative intent is not in the legislation itself but in the regulations that follow after a bill's passage. This is where my concern is.

To put it into perspective, think of a government bill. I see the justice minister is in the House, so let us use the government's flawed Firearms Registration Act as an example, otherwise known as Bill C-68. That bill was and is an attack on the fundamental property rights of Canadians. Yet the most offensive part of the bill comes from the potential of governor in council regulations that may be passed at future dates.

The enabling legislation for Bill C-68 contains a regulatory proviso that allows the justice minister to arbitrarily declare any class of firearm prohibited. The firearms can then be confiscated from law-abiding owners.

As for the regulation itself, there is no debate, no vote in parliament and no accountability. Sure there is a weak promise to table any such regulations before the justice committee, but that is a meaningless, token gesture. In fact, the tabling of order in council documents before any parliamentary committee is rarely done. It is even rarer for the government to place draft regulations, along with the bill itself, before a parliamentary committee for consideration.

The point here is that a government bill is a lot like an iceberg; 10% comes in the form of the bill and the other 90% lurks beneath the surface in the form of regulatory authority.

What does my Tory friend offer as a solution to problems of accountability and cost effectiveness? In true Liberal and Red Tory fame, he offers to set up a bureaucracy to watch the bureaucracy, spending money to allegedly save money. When I see and hear that type of impaired logic, I can safely say that Liberal or Tory, same old story.

Am I being overly unfair? Let us look at the record of the red Tory government when it was in power. Does it differ from its Liberal clone on the subject of regulatory accountability? During nine tortuous years in power, did members of the fifth place party do something to make the regulatory process more accountable? Unfortunately, no. Like their Liberal friends before them and in government now, the Tories did nothing. In fact, the statutory measure that would allow for a parliamentary committee to disallow a regulation is still not in place. The Tories could have done it while they were in power and did not.

Of course, their Liberal counterparts are no better and somewhat more hypocritical than the Tories. The Liberals actually pushed for a statutory disallowance procedure while the Tories were in power. Curiously though, now that the Liberals are in power, they are not quite as eager to implement it. Then again, it is not all that surprising if one thinks back to the Liberal GST promise, but I digress.

There are numerous reasons why the Liberals will not enact a statutory disallowance procedure. Political opportunists say one thing in opposition and do another thing in government. Arrogance, disrespect for democracy and the list goes on.

In any event, a great deal of what he proposes is contained in the RIAS which accompanies the regulation. The regulatory impact analysis statement deals with much of what the hon. member is trying to do here with the motion before us. I encourage him to actually pick up a copy of the Canada Gazette Part II and read through the RIAS for any given regulation. It does offer valuable insight into the impact of a regulation. However, I reiterate that the key to accountability lay elsewhere, not in the financial bottom line but in reform of the process itself.

A regulation should not just be given a parliamentary rubber stamp once the Clerk of the Privy Council has been given a copy, as is the case now. Instead, there should be mandatory review by a parliamentary committee before a regulation comes into force. As a preventive measure, this could be done by tabling draft regulations at second reading or during committee consideration of a bill. If the regulation is found to be flawed, then it would be referred to scrutiny of regulations immediately instead of after the fact.

Once there, if the regulation is still found to be flawed, a statutory disallowance procedure could then be used to strike down the offending regulation. My Liberal friends will say that there is already room in the standing orders, but this procedure is not useful because there is nothing compelling the minister to strike down the offending regulation.

Considering that Britain, Australia and New Zealand all have statutory disallowance procedures, the question is, why do we not? The answer is a refusal by cabinet to act on the issue, a refusal by the executive to relinquish absolute power over the regulatory process.

Sadly, this comes from the profound mistrust that government MPs have for the role of parliament and its members. And, like the motion before us, it also demonstrates a deep misunderstanding of the regulatory process.

In closing, if MPs on both sides want to make regulations more accountable, hence cost effective, this is not the way to go about it.

The House and Canadians would be better served by a regulation making process that increases parliamentary scrutiny. Contrary to what is being proposed here, it does not mean creating another bureaucracy which functions outside of parliament.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in the debate on M-207.

At the outset, I want to acknowledge the work of the member for Kings—Hants in bringing the motion before the House and to thank him for the work that he has done on a very important matter. Contrary to my colleagues in the Reform Party, I do see a purpose and a point to the debate from the point of view of accountability and open, transparent government.

It should not be a surprise for us to hear Reform members talk in such strong terms against the motion because what this party is really interested in is no government. The least government is the best government from the point of view of Reform members. Anything that comes in the way of that is certainly a negative from their perspective.

I certainly support the spirit of the motion before us. What the member for Kings—Hants is trying to do is to acknowledge the fact that today we have a government by stealth, a government that has basically found a secretive, underhanded way of advancing public policy without the full benefit of parliamentary debate and public scrutiny. I certainly acknowledge the root cause of the motion and appreciate his attempts to address that.

We support the spirit of the motion. We also support that aspect of the motion that deals with the principle of ensuring financial impact assessments on regulations. I support that proposition because it does give us one way to ensure scrutiny and accountability here in this place of elected representatives.

We do, however, have some problems with the member's suggestion for a regulatory budget. We are concerned about that particular aspect of the motion because we know those words have become a flag waving idea by extreme right-wing elements in the United States. If we cut through all the rhetoric of the Reform Party, we will find that it supports that concept as well because it allows it to advance the agenda of reducing government and the whole role and responsibility of government for ensuring a society that is more equitable and based on fairness and justice.

We know that the idea of a regulatory budget has been advanced by some pretty extreme characters in the United States. We think back to Pat Buchanan who, in the 1960s, was advocating such an idea and did so in very open terms. He felt that this kind of idea would create the optimal situation for reducing the role of government. His objective would in fact be zero regulations and a zero budget situation. We are very leery of giving any credence to this kind of idea. We will speak consistently against that approach.

Coming back to what I think is the spirit of the motion before us and the real intentions of the member for Kings—Hants is accountability with respect to regulations. It ensures that we are able to measure the effectiveness of regulations and hold the government accountable for any endeavours or initiatives that exceed its obligations under existing laws and statutes.

There are many examples where the government has advanced its own agenda and ideas in ways that appear quite contrary to the legislation that has been approved without it being held accountable to parliament. We certainly think that the financial impact assessments of regulations would allow for all of us to have a more open public debate and better scrutiny of public policy. Having financial impact assessments on regulations would be an important tool for all of us.

The member for Kings—Hants mentioned that it will not always be possible to make decisions strictly in terms of a cost benefit analysis. There will be times, if we have all the facts before us, where we will recognize that the costs of enforcing and implementing regulations may far outweigh the cost to our budget and the mechanisms required to enforce those regulations.

We, in the House, would appreciate opportunities to assess the compliance costs of environmental regulations. We on this side of the House would like to see a way to assess the GST compliance costs on small business. We would like to find a way to assess the financial impact of regulations pursued by the government when it comes to patent medicine. We would like to fully understand how a government can proceed with decisions made behind closed doors without the benefit of public scrutiny. We would like to understand how it justifies those decisions in terms of the entire health care system and the Canadian taxpayer as a whole.

I think specifically of the issue we have dealt with in the last few months with respect to the Minister of Industry. In the dead of this summer, he brought forward regulations without warning, without any kind of heads up to the generic drug industry, about the government's plans to make further changes to the notice of compliance regulations which make it harder for generic drug companies to have a foothold in the country and get their products to market. At that time, we raised concerns about the whole process.

I will quote from a letter I wrote to the Minister of Industry on September 9:

Through recently announced amendments, your government has surreptitiously introduced changes that will certainly add to the drug costs faced by Canadians. These changes further entrench the virtual monopoly guaranteed to the international pharmaceutical cartel through the ill-advised Canada Patent Act at the expense of the generic drug industry and the Canadian health system. I am particularly concerned about the arbitrary and undemocratic way in which you have chosen to proceed with these latest amendments to the Patented Medicines Regulations.

I go on to call for the minister to slow down the process to allow for all players in the field to scrutinize the proposed regulations and to bring them to parliament to be accountable to this body of elected representatives in terms of cost benefit analysis, in terms of consistency with existing legislation and in terms of consistency with the public's interest in ensuring a more cost effective system where people have access to drugs when they need them.

The government chose to ignore these concerns. It chose to ignore the strong positions presented to it from the Canadian Drug Manufacturers Association. I can cite reams and reams of documents where that organization appealed to the government to slow the process down, hear its input and to truly look at the financial impact for all Canadians and our entire health care system if this was allowed to go through.

The Minister of Industry and the entire cabinet ignored those concerns. They proceeded to ratify those regulations at the beginning of October. It is now a done deal. That is a perfect example of government by stealth and a government that advances its agenda which is tied to the big pharmaceutical corporations and other big industry interests in order to pursue its objectives. That is precisely what needs to be addressed.

This motion provides us with a way to debate and discuss these concerns. In part it goes a long way toward addressing a very serious situation.

Again, I would like to congratulate and thank the member for Kings—Hants for his motion. We support the spirit of it. We support that part of it which deals with financial impact assessments on regulations. We regret that we cannot support the regulatory budget approach. However, given the sentiments in the House for more government accountability to parliament, I believe that this would provide the basis for future motions and legislative work that we can pursue as members in the House of Commons.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I should advise the House that if the hon. member for Kings—Hants speaks now, he will close the debate.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, again it is a pleasure that I rise to debate Motion No. 207. I appreciate the interventions by the representatives from the other parties.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister raised some concerns relative to my motion and to the notion of a regulatory budget. I want to clarify a couple of things. I should clarify what this motion is not, what we are not representing with the regulatory budget idea.

We are certainly not saying that there will be times that we would be opposed to all regulations. In fact, there are times that we would still support regulations although the government borne costs of implementation and compliance and the citizenry borne costs actually exceeded the benefits provided by the regulation.

Earlier I used the example of bicycle helmets. In dealing with a priceless issue in terms of the safety of children against head injuries, it could be very difficult to quantify that. Even if we were to assess some level of cost it could very well be the case that the elected members of parliament would still support that particular regulation.

There are examples where the House would support a regulation even though the cost benefit analysis numbers did not quantitatively support that regulation. It would provide an increase in the role of the member of parliament in evaluating these very important regulations in the same way that we evaluate taxes and other public policies in this chamber, or at least we should be.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister also said that this could result in a cap on regulations. Nowhere does the motion mention there being a cap on regulations. We believe that every regulation should have a sunset clause. Periodically we should be revisiting pieces of governance or regulations to determine their efficacy in the current context. That would make sense. But in no way, shape or form did we ever mention a cap.

The Reform member initially described me as being a socialist. That is the first time I have ever been described as a socialist. I guess that is why we are a centre right party as opposed to a far right party. I guess most Canadians are somewhere in the centre. Certainly the recent polls indicate that more Canadians are closer to where we are than to where the Reform Party is.

In any case, I was surprised that the Reform Party would be opposed to increasing the role of the member of parliament and increasing the accountability of parliament. I assumed on past utterances by the Reform Party that the Reform Party would support greater scrutiny over initiatives by unelected people in the bureaucracy. I guess that is no longer the case. Perhaps hypocrisy is only half a mortal sin, so a party that looks seriously on those kinds of things may not be as constrained as we would have expected.

I was also surprised that the Reform Party would be so opposed to something that has been endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I am frequently surprised by the Reform Party and perhaps eventually when I become less jaded I will become more inured to some of the inconsistencies over there.

I thank the hon. NDP member for her thoughtful intervention. It is obvious that she considered the issue very carefully and gave a qualified approval of the intent of the legislation. I appreciate her intervention today, and on other days as well. She is a very skilled, adroit and thoughtful parliamentarian. She compared this piece of legislation to something that Pat Buchanan was supportive of sometime ago. Be assured that my intentions with this legislation are far different from what the far right in the U.S. would support, particularly people like Pat Buchanan of the U.S. Reform Party.

If the New Democrats say that I am too far right and the Reform Party says I am a socialist, that probably makes me just right. We like the centre right position. More and more Canadians are becoming increasingly comfortable with where we are at. We certainly expect that enough Canadians in the next federal election will be so comfortable that we will be on the other side of the House implementing this types of visionary legislation that will improve the quality of life for Canadians and the competitiveness of Canadian enterprise as we move bravely into the 21st century.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the order paper.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to ask that we suspend the sitting for six minutes.

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the wish of the House to suspend the sitting until 12 o'clock?

Regulatory BudgetPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11.53 a.m.)

The House resumed at 12 p.m.

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Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among House leaders with respect to speaking times for the debate today and I believe there would be consent for the adoption of the following motion. I move:

That during today's sitting the member proposing a motion on an allotted day shall not speak for more than 20 minutes, following which a period not exceeding 10 minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto, and immediately thereafter a representative of each of the recognized parties, other than that of the member proposing the motion, may be recognized to speak for not more than 10 minutes, following which, in each case, a period not exceeding five minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto.

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The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the federal government should conduct a province-wide referendum in British Columbia on the Nisga'a Final Agreement prior to the consideration of any further stages of Bill C-9, an Act to give effect to the Nisga'a Final Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Calgary Southwest.

I will confine my remarks today on the Nisga'a treaty to process. The reason we moved this motion for debate in the House regarding a referendum in British Columbia on the treaty has to do with the fact that the process that has brought us to this point with the treaty has been wrong. It has been wrong for many years. It has led to a treaty which, right now in British Columbia, enjoys at best questionable support. In our view it does not pass the judgment of the people of British Columbia. Indeed, we do not believe it would pass the judgment of the people of Canada.

I will give the House a bit of background as to what has happened up to this point in time. It has often been said that the Nisga'a leaders for more than 100 years have tried to get a treaty with Canada and with British Columbia. That is in fact the case. There is a lot of documentation which shows that the Nisga'a leaders have tried since before Confederation to have the Government of Canada, and prior to that the Government of Britain, enter into a treaty. They were steadfastly refused for more than 100 years.

It is also true that in 1973, with the Calder decision of the Supreme Court of Canada being a split decision, the Government of Canada became alarmed that the Nisga'a had come close to winning a land claim case in court. At that point the government decided that it would enter into negotiations.

British Columbia refused on the basis that in 1871 when it joined Confederation the terms of that union, which was called the act of union, expressly provided that the federal government would be responsible for all existing and future obligations to aboriginal people, except for the narrow requirement of the province of British Columbia to set aside lands known as reserve lands and to have those registered with the land title office and conveyed to the federal government, which B.C. did. British Columbia has about 1,600 such reserve lands that were registered between 1871 and 1926 when the federal government ultimately passed legislation which recognized that B.C. had lived up to its full obligations under the terms of the union.

British Columbia refused to join the discussions regarding treaties, taking the position that Canada was rightfully the body to be negotiating with the Nisga'a and if Canada required land or resources to complete those negotiations Canada would have to come back to British Columbia and make arrangements to compensate, to buy the land and the resources to be conveyed.

In 1991, however, there was a change taking place in British Columbia. The provincial government at that point said it would sit down as a party to the negotiations. It also indicated that it would be prepared to put land on the table as a provincial government on behalf of the people of British Columbia to resolve the outstanding claims. What it also did, the first major flaw in the process that has led us to the great problem we have today, was that it signed a secrecy agreement with the federal government and the Nisga'a negotiators wherein it said that it would be party to negotiations that would take place behind closed doors. The negotiators were all bound by the secrecy agreement not to discuss anything outside the negotiating room. The public of British Columbia for many years was not even aware that these negotiations were taking place and certainly had no idea of the ramifications of the negotiations.

In 1994-95 the Reform Party of Canada found out that these negotiations were taking place. It held a series of public meetings and tried to bring to the attention of the public that this was taking place. It also tried to create some kind of a mechanism for public input. The negotiators for the federal and provincial governments fought the Reform Party of Canada tooth and nail. They did not want to have anything to do with it.

In 1996 an agreement in principle was announced. It was released publicly. At that point the provincial government decided it would have its standing committee on aboriginal affairs travel the province of British Columbia to consult with the public. I attended several of those meetings and I have the minutes of proceedings of all of those meetings. People who showed up to voice concern or express any kind of opposition to any of the principles or any of the facets of the agreement in principle were routinely belittled and their character and motives were called into question. The provincial members, dominated by NDP MLAs, took the position that people who questioned the wisdom of the agreement in principle were not just wrong but were somehow lesser people; evil people, if I can use that term.

The final agreement was released publicly last year. We note that in the final agreement there was no substantive change from the agreement in principle, so all the committee work that was done by the B.C. standing committee was obviously just a big PR exercise so the government could say it had consulted with people when in fact it had not.

When the final agreement was released the provincial government spent $8 million of B.C. taxpayers' money in an effort to sell the agreement. In a highly emotional appeal it routinely belittled again anybody who questioned the agreement, and it routinely indicated that this was a good deal and it would not change one word of the agreement.

We then saw the ratification process take place in the legislature of British Columbia where debate was cut off after less than half of the agreement was debated. Even though the provincial government had promised British Columbians a full debate on the treaty, it guillotined the debate after less than half the treaty was actually debated.

Then we have the federal ratification process. We will recall that the minister of Indian affairs signed the treaty in June of this year, before the legislation or the agreement had even been introduced in parliament. Again we see a perverted process. We now have the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development travelling to British Columbia because, as one Liberal member who was in Terrace last week said: “We are only in B.C. because of a tactic by the Reform Party to hijack parliament. In fact we came here on the white knuckle route. I have not been on a train yet. I have been on every other mode of transportation. This little song and dance is costing the taxpayers $500,000 directly by the Reform Party”. He said that the only reason he was there was because of a tactic of the Reform Party.

In other words, the only reason the Liberal members came to British Columbia, and they made it very plain to the people who were testifying before the committee, which was a stacked committee, was because they were forced into it. They had no real intention of listening to British Columbians.

This is further evidence of the flawed and perverted process that has been used to date to try to ram through a treaty which we do not think enjoys the support of the public of British Columbia. Certainly all of the indications we have are that it does not. This is not a minor matter. This is, as broadcaster Rafe Mair said, a huge change in the social contract of British Columbia.

British Columbians deserve to have the right to vote on this treaty to decide whether the kinds of principles expressed in the deal are principles which they can support, because they will, for sure, be reflected in 50 or more treaties yet to be negotiated. Because of the flawed process that has been used to date, it is absolutely imperative that this parliament in the debate today come to the conclusion that British Columbians have a right to vote in a referendum, that they have a right to take part in the ratification process, and that they have a right to express their opinions.

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12:10 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Skeena has talked of the importance of consultation on the Nisga'a treaty. I certainly do not think anyone disagrees with that. Some of us would argue that there has been extensive consultation.

I would have thought as well that he would have been concerned with consultation with the Nisga'a people, with the people he represents as the member of parliament for Skeena.

I wonder if the hon. member for Skeena could tell the House when it was that he last had a meeting and not a debate in front television cameras. When was the last time the member for Skeena, who represents the Nass Valley and the Nisga'a people, sat down face to face to have a dialogue with the Nisga'a people on this important treaty?

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12:10 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. I do not know who he means by the Nisga'a people because I talk to the Nisga'a people all the time. I meet the Nisga'a people face to face. The last time I had a face to face meeting with a Nisga'a individual was about a week ago. I met with Frank Barton and talked with him extensively about his concerns over the Nisga'a treaty. There have been many more like Mr. Barton with whom I have met face to face.

I remind the hon. member that not only do I have the responsibility and the privilege of representing the Nisga'a people, I also have the honour and privilege of representing the Gitksan and Gitanyow people, people who say they have never been consulted by the federal government, they have never been consulted by the provincial government, and they have never heard from this member over here or his party.

I would point out that there are many parties to this debate. I would ask the member not to focus on four or five Nisga'a leaders as being the only example that he can raise in the House.

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12:15 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I know where the NDP member is coming from. I think we will probably hear today a lot of rhetorical advances coming from the other parties. I want to get something out on the table in the House through my hon. colleague. It is about the role of opposition parties in the House of Commons.

There are four opposition parties in the House of Commons. When there are obvious concerns, not just by British Columbians but by Canadians about the implementation of such a template agreement, why is it that it is only the Reform Party which is not only standing up in the House of Commons in opposition but also in a critique of the bill on the agreement?

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12:15 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, the best answer I can give my colleague is to refer him to a book that was written by Thomas Sowell, an American author who wrote a book called The Vision of the Anointed . What we have here is a very similar proposition. We have a vision that is expressed through government policy that is adopted by all the other opposition parties in the House. It is a failed vision. It has been a demonstrated failure for over 130 years. My goodness, look at the results that it has represented for aboriginal people on reserves. Look at the dire circumstances that many of these people live in.

These people are so enraptured with this vision that they insulate themselves from the reality of the policy decisions that they make. They refuse to accept the fact that the failure and the abject poverty that many aboriginal people live in is as a direct result of these policies. They continue down the same path without being able to question or even engage in an honest, intellectual debate about what the government ought to do and ought not to do in terms of rectifying the situation and trying to improve things.

That in my view is the failure of the opposition and the government for that matter in this entire debate.

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12:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, the motion before the House today calls for a referendum of the people of British Columbia. In view of the fact that something like 80% of the cost of this treaty is in fact coming from federal taxpayers from across Canada, if the hon. member is serious about a referendum why is it that he is calling for a referendum just of the people of British Columbia? Why is he not calling for a referendum of the people right across Canada? Of course that would be outrageous because in that case—

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12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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12:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

The Reform Party is applauding. It wants the people of Ontario to be able to tell the people of British Columbia what is best for them. Shame on the Reform Party.

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12:15 p.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to see the member pirouetting around and changing positions in a heartbeat. On the one hand, he says the people of British Columbia should not be the only ones to have a referendum and then he says they should.

In answer to that question, it is the change to the social contract, the self-government provisions in this treaty, not the cost of it that people should be focused on. That is the real essence of the debate here today. It is the self-government provisions.

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12:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta


Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of the motion before the House which calls for the federal government to conduct a province-wide referendum in British Columbia on the Nisga'a final agreement.

On October 26 in the House, I fully expressed my own views on the Nisga'a treaty itself. The focus of today's motion, however, is not so much on the treaty as on the democratic right of the people of British Columbia to register their opinion on this treaty; their support for it or their opposition to it through a province-wide referendum. The point at issue, in other words, is the democratic rights of the people of British Columbia.

The other members of the official opposition today will put forward the main reasons for a referendum. In our judgment, those include economic and financial reasons because this agreement and future agreements modelled on it will have a major financial impact on British Columbians and on other Canadians.

There are, of course, social reasons why this should be subjected to a referendum because this treaty and others modelled after it will have a profound effect, as the member said, on the social and community relations between aboriginals and non-aboriginals throughout the entire province.

There are also constitutional reasons for having a referendum on this issue because the agreement establishes a new order of aboriginal government with jurisdiction over many areas of activity which were formerly the exclusive prerogative of the federal and provincial governments.

I do not want to spend my time on these reasons, important as they are. What I would like to do is to recognize that all the parties in the House, with the exception of the official opposition, have chosen to co-operate with the government in the unseemly task of pushing this treaty through the House with a minimum amount of discussion and a minimum amount of consultation with the people of British Columbia.

Nevertheless, I would like to make some arguments as to why members of the respective parties in the House, regardless of their position on Nisga'a itself, should consider supporting the motion before the House.

The motion tests the commitment of various members and parties to uphold democracy, the democratic rights of British Columbians to affirm or withhold their support for a major piece of legislation with economic, social and constitutional ramifications for the entire province.

How members vote on the motion will tell voters a great deal about the commitment of those members and their parties to democracy, the democratic rights of the people themselves to decide certain major issues rather than have solutions forced upon them.

To be specific, I first appeal to the Bloc members. The Bloc Quebecois members never tire of telling the House about the democratic rights of the people of Quebec to decide their own future on constitutional matters. Surely, if they are that committed to democracy and the use of referendums to settle issues democratically, they cannot turn around and deny that same right to the people of British Columbia with respect to a quasi constitutional issue of great importance to them.

I would appeal to members of the New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party professes to have a special commitment to democracy. It is embodied in the name of the party. In the old days when it was still the CCF, it purported to be the party for the little person, the party that wanted to give ordinary people a voice and a say in the great decisions affecting their lives.

The old CCF supported such measures as greater use of referendums, citizens initiatives and recall, not unlike those that are currently in the platform of the Reform Party.

I would appeal to New Democratic Party members, for the purpose of this motion at least, to return to their democratic roots and regardless of their position on the Nisga'a treaty itself, to give ordinary rank and file British Columbians a chance to express themselves on this matter through a referendum.

I would appeal to the federal Conservative members in this way: It was a Conservative federal government which brought in the Federal Referendum Act of 1992. Section 3 of that act reads:

Where the Governor in Council considers that it is in the public interest to obtain by means of a referendum the opinion of electors on any question relating to the Constitution of Canada, the Governor in Council may, by proclamation, direct that the opinion of electors be obtained by putting the question to the electors of Canada or of one or more provinces specified in the proclamation at a referendum called for that purpose.

Whereas the B.C. referendum legislation requires an actual constitutional amendment to trigger a province-wide referendum, the federal legislation, enacted by a Conservative government, is much more inclusive, permitting a referendum “on any question relating to the Constitution of Canada”.

While some members may dispute the official opposition's claim that the whole Nisga'a agreement is a de facto constitutional amendment, no one, regardless of their position on this issue, can deny that it certainly raises questions relating to the Constitution of Canada.

For example, the preamble of the treaty makes reference to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The first provision in chapter 2 of the treaty defining the “nature of the agreement” says that the agreement is “a treaty and a land claims agreement within the meaning of sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”. The Nisga'a agreement is described within itself as being by definition a constitutional document.

Section 8 of chapter 2 makes specific reference to the Constitution of Canada itself. Section 9 refers to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is part of the constitution. Section 23 of chapter 2 elaborates on Nisga'a rights as provided for in section 35 of the constitution.

Since the Nisga'a final agreement obviously raises questions relating to the Constitution of Canada and the Conservative Referendum Act of 1992 specifically provided for the use of referendums to obtain expressions of public opinion on such matters, I would therefore appeal to Conservative members to uphold the principles and the spirit of their own referendum act and support the motion before the House.

It is evident to the official opposition that a majority of the members of the Liberal government have simply written off the opinions and interests of British Columbians. The government is at odds with the people of British Columbia on everything from the handling of illegal immigrants, to the collapse of the west coast fishery, to aboriginal issues in general, to the Nisga'a treaty in particular.

We, therefore, do not expect a majority of the government members to have any respect for the democratic rights of the people of British Columbia to express themselves on this issue, even though the provincial Liberal Party in B.C. under Gordon Campbell has explicitly called for a referendum on the Nisga'a treaty in that province.

The motion before the House, however, does provide a specific opportunity for the last remaining Liberal MPs from British Columbia to declare where they stand when the democratic rights of the people of that province conflict with the position and party line of the federal Liberal government.

The people of B.C. expect that when there is a conflict between the Liberal Party line and the position of the electors of B.C. that the position of the electors should prevail.

A majority of the people of British Columbia would therefore expect the following members to support the motion and will be watching with keen interest tomorrow night to see if, in fact, they do. I refer to: the member for Victoria, the member for Richmond, the member for Vancouver South—Burnaby, the member for Vancouver Centre, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, the member for Vancouver Quadra, and the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

The eyes of B.C. are upon these members. Will it be the Liberal Party line or the democratic rights of British Columbians? The vote on the motion will tell the story.

I appeal to all members, regardless of their position on the Nisga'a treaty, who profess to value the democratic rights of the people of British Columbia to decide for themselves whether the Nisga'a agreement is in the interests of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in that province to support the motion before the House.

I move:

That the motion be amended by inserting after the words “British Columbia on” the words “the ratification of”.